Robert Atkinson and Tom Hoyle

The Situation

Harkness Screens (UK) Ltd wanted to extend its research and development by working with the Engineering Department at Lancaster University. This included the need to design, build, test and investigate emerging technologies that can help support the company’s growth and competitive advantage.

Skills Sought

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Problem-solving, use of initiative
  • Ability to plan and execute collaborative R&D projects
  • Use of facilities to prototype and test designs

Harkness Screens (UK) Ltd

"With manufacturing facilities in the US, France, UK, India and China, Harkness Screens (UK) Ltd is regarded as the world leader in cinema screen technology and today has screens in more cinemas worldwide than any other manufacturer"

David Harrison, Chief Technical Officer and Director of Harkness Screens (UK) Ltd.

Robert Atkinson, Dr Nilla Karlsen-Davies and Tom Hoyle

The Solution

The Engineering Department worked with the company on a stand-alone two-week project with a team of undergraduate MEng students completing a discrete piece of work under the supervision of an academic member of staff. Following on from this, the company continued with two of the students (Robert Atkinson and Tom Hoyle) over the summer vacation with further R&D projects.

“With the increased responsibility of a real project I gained a lot of motivation to dig far deeper into all aspects of the project to really make sure the right decisions were made and everything progressed well. It is so important to gain this kind of experience before finishing your degree, as a good grade alone isn’t enough anymore.”

Robert Atkinson (MEng Mechanical Engineering undergraduate student)


There was no financial cost for the initial two-week project. Employing Robert and Tom over the summer cost £1,200 per month, per person.


David Harrison, Chief Technical Officer and Director of Harkness Screens (UK) Ltd said:

“Mechanical Engineering students Tom and Robert have previously collaborated with Harkness Screens on an intensive two-week student team project. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with them individually on two separate 10 week-long projects through Lancaster University Faculty of Science and Technology Internship Programme.

I found the experience stimulating, rewarding and intellectually profitable. Both Tom and Robert offered access to personal skills and scientific facilities that are not readily available to small businesses such as Harkness Screens when researching new and innovative ideas.”


  • Enabled the company to expand its R&D operations
  • Provided students with the opportunity to apply their technical knowledge to commercial situations


The project was facilitated by Haleys Business Advisors. Dr Nilla Karlsen-Davies, Chief Technical Analyst, Haleys Business Advisers said:

“I head up our Rewarding Innovation team at Haleys Business Advisers. One of our areas of expertise is helping our clients find the appropriate input level to develop an idea to the next phase, so they can make informed commercial decisions. Internships are a great mechanism for companies such as our client, Harkness Screens, to focus on the specific tasks which help them to realise a greater strategy.

Having worked closely with industrial partners during my degrees, it feels like I’ve come full circle. I can see the benefit from the company’s perspective and from the students as they continue to develop their technical and commercial skills. As a Lancaster Alumni, I have really enjoyed collaborating with the Engineering Department again. The staff are very knowledgeable and have been incredibly helpful in ensuring a smooth and enjoyable process from start to finish. It’s also great to see that they continue to produce top, quality graduates.”

Talk to us Now

For more information on our internship programme and how to get involved, please contact the Student Employability Team: Pam Pickles and Rachael Sterrett